Sex, Sexuality & Public Policy (WS 257; Winter 2013, T/Th 10-11:30am)

Throughout this course we examine a series of U.S. policies that aim to shape the sexual lives of young people and adults. We will examine policies concerning how we learn about sex, engage in sex, and form families, including policies related to sex education, school-based bullying, marriage, sodomy, contraception, and abortion.

While policies are often imagined as solely punitive, they also create and support environments necessary for well-being. In the sexual domain, while some policies aim to regulate and police the expression of sexuality, other policies seek to distribute resources equitably throughout, for example, a family, neighborhood, state, or nation.

Several questions will help guide the discussion of public policies, sex, and sexuality: 1) What rationales are used to describe and support sex and sexuality policies?; 2) How do policies concerning sex and sexuality operate?; 3) Who is commonly represented in these policies?; 4) Which part(s) of the person are imagined as changed, controlled and/or protected?; and 5) What are the psychological consequences of the presence and absence of sex and sexuality policies? These questions offer ways of reading across several policies and invite us to look for patterns and omissions when assessing the relationship between the intimate sphere of the individual and the public sphere of social policy.

Adolescent Sexuality (WS 431; Fall 2012, T/Th 10-11:30am)

While many courses on adolescent sexuality focus solely on "crises," such as sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, this course takes a decidedly different approach by studying a wide range of issues that affect young people and their sexual development. In this course we discuss early lessons regarding sexuality as the basis for individuals' attitudes regarding sex and potential sexual/relational partners throughout their lifetime. 

We move from the inside out: starting with biological and hormonal development, we move to how peers and partners can affect adolescent sexual health, next moving to how the media and popular culture influence sexual development, then to families and schools, and finally, to social policies and laws that create the political infrastructure in which adolescents develop. Each of these factors encourages us to think about sexual health not only as an individual experience, but as a phenomenon that is created and supported by decisions and relationships which affect young people differently. With this in mind, we pay particular attention to specific characteristics that affect sexual health, including gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Throughout the semester, we explore how these -- in combination with being young -- affect what adolescents learn about themselves, their bodies, and the potential for being a healthy sexual adult. The structure of this course encourages students to develop a set of critical skills that will allow them to understand how young people are affected by both public and private decisions regarding their own sexuality.

Sexual Health Across the Life Span

This seminar will address how sexual health is defined and experienced by individuals throughout their lifetime. Starting with children and adolescents, moving into adulthood, and then one's senior years, we will examine the issues individuals face during each of these life stages, including, sexuality education, sexually transmitted diseases, intimate relationships, and sexual experiences within aging and illness contexts. Because sexual health is an area that is deeply influenced by one's social environment, we will pay particular attention to how gender, sexual identity, race/ethnicity, sexual stigma, as well as other factors influence what people know about their own sexual health, definitions of what is considered “healthy” sexuality, social norms regarding sexual health, and how these change over the life span.